Using Technology to Engage Nonprofit Boards

Managing communications with nonprofit boards can be a challenging endeavor. Members may be geographically dispersed and extremely busy, making ongoing engagement difficult. Without regular communication, boards stagnate and become disconnected from their organization. An October Techsoup article delves into the wide range of technological tools that may help encourage engagement. Solutions ranging from videoconferencing software, to shared workspaces and storage, to board portals, all have an important role to play in ensuring an active board.

AMT Lab contributor Erin Wagner conducted some excellent research on this topic last year, culminating in her whitepaper, Computer Software and Online Technologies to Deepen and Grow Board Engagement. As explored in her research, technology can serve several board needs :

Regular evaluations of board meetings and members can be an excellent way to improve meeting quality and ensure all members feel their voices are heard. Per Erin's April 8th article, without a clear understanding of board strengths and weaknesses, "it is nearly impossible for an organization to discern the best course of action for board improvement." Online evaluations ensure that attendance is not a barrier to data collection, and allow meeting time to be reserved for more pressing business. 

Two possible online assessment options profiled in  Computer Software and Online Technologies to Deepen and Grow Board Engagement

Two possible online assessment options profiled in  Computer Software and Online Technologies to Deepen and Grow Board Engagement

Board portals can be a particularly attractive solution, providing the functionality of many different services in one place. Boardbookit, for example, seeks to consolidate multiple data streams and prioritizes easy access to key information. Meeting documents, board rosters, and a shared calendar are all prominently featured. Short polls can be built into the landing page dashboard, allowing a Board Chair or Executive Director to quickly take the group's temperature on an important issue, or just select the next meeting time from a few dates. Read our full review of Boardbookit here.

Depending on the desired and expected level of board engagement, additional tools such as project management software, standalone document management systems, and even private social networking apps can encourage regular communication with organizational staff and fellow board members. Erin profiled several examples.

A comparison of three document management systems from Computer Software and Online Technologies to Deepen and Grow Board Engagement.

A comparison of three document management systems from Computer Software and Online Technologies to Deepen and Grow Board Engagement.

While organizational leaders should be careful not to overwhelm their board with too many tools at one time, deliberate implementations can increase board effectiveness with minimal cost. Technological tools can accelerate the on-boarding process, keep members up to date, and encourages steady work from members outside of the few times a year the board actually meets.

Are there tool that your organization uses to facilitate its board meetings? Are there programs that you have been considering but would like to see reviewed before making a decision? Let us know in the comments below.